In my 28 years of life, I have been asked many questions about my appearance. “Where are your parents from?” or “Is that your real hair?” are normally questions I answer with joy, feeling quite flattered by people’s interest. However, a handful of questions irk me. Namely, questions about my skin.
Whether it's innocent curiosity or rude observation, it still elicits the same reaction from me ― a roll of the eyes and, through gritted teeth, I explain my condition.
These are some of the questions people with eczema are tired of hearing.
What’s wrong with your skin?
I don’t mean to be a typical female, but this question hurts my feelings. It comes down to, “It’s not what you said, it’s the way you said it.” Some people can be really insensitive about how they approach the topic of skin conditions. They fail to realize that eczema sufferers are very aware of how they look and would rather no one notice our scars, flakes, or redness.
However, to all the people out there with beautiful skin, if your curiosity was to take over and you really wanted to know what was up, I beg of you ― ask gently. Ask in a way that the sufferer isn't humiliated. Don’t wrinkle your nose, don’t look them up and down, and please don’t step away. All of these have happened to me in the past.
Instead of, “What’s up with your skin?” or “What is that on your arm?" try, “I’ve noticed your skin is really red lately, do you have a skin condition?” I would be more inclined to answer you and not feel so awkward. First, because you’ve shown concern and second, it shows you want to understand as opposed to just get an answer.
And for the love of God, please don’t ask these kinds of questions in a public setting like a party or a work meeting. Not the time, nor the place.
Is it contagious?
There is nothing worse than feeling that your mere presence is making someone feel uncomfortable. I wouldn’t wish eczema on anyone and no, it's not contagious. No, you will not turn into an itching flaking mess like me, and yes, your children are safe. Now, come here and give me a hug!
Why don’t you just stop scratching?
Every day I wish I could, but it’s not easy to turn off your body’s natural response to an itch when it feels like your body is either burning or there are ants crawling under your skin. Sometimes scratching feels good; it provides such a relief so it’s not as easy as just stopping. Regardless, my eczema would still be here whether I scratch or not.
Have you tried this cream?
Believe me, I have tried everything under the sun for my condition. Nine times out of 10, if you can think of it I have applied it, consumed it, bathed in it or inhaled it. At the same time, having such sensitive skin, I am terrified of trying something new in case of an allergic reaction, or something that stings my open wounds. Every miracle cream out there, I have tried, every food that claims to cure our skin I have eaten ― yet my eczema still remains.
Why don’t you just go raw vegan?
I can’t deny that a lot of people believe that diet is a major component of eczema. However, diet is not one-size-fits-all proposition. I have a lot of allergies and I also suffer from Oral Allergy Syndrome, so a raw vegan diet is out of the question for me. I can add a lot of fruit and vegetables to my diet though without problem, but being strictly vegan would be hard. I’ll be honest: foods (especially the foods that are bad for you!) can bring such pleasure and comfort ― they're one of the few things that bring me joy in this world.
So, while I’m having a miserable time with my skin, I’d like a steak and chips with garlic butter sauce and a warm chocolate brownie with vanilla ice cream on the side, please. Thanks!